In These Final Hours

We’ve had a truly magnificent season, everyone. Here we are, with the campers all going home tomorrow morning. Hard to believe how fast the summer has flown by!

 

The end-of-session traditions are a huge deal at Birch Trail, and incorporate something that everyone—from the youngest first-time camper to the most senior staff member—can look forward to. With performances and shows and special programs galore, it’s a really busy and bittersweet time for us all.

Birch Trail has been populated by an incredible bunch of campers this summer, including an enthusiastic TM and led by a caring, fun-loving staff. The result has been a summer filled with laughter, learning, and a greater sense of accomplishment. Upon her return home, we think you’ll find a daughter filled with stories, songs, and a long list of adventures. More than that, we hope you’ll agree that she has grown and developed in many great ways, has a stronger sense of herself, and knows what she is capable of achieving.

“Homesickness” is common when children leave the security of their family. At the end of the camping season “campsickness” may also occur. For many of you, your daughters will return home filled with stories to share; other campers, particularly older campers, may be withdrawn and sad when they return home. Both reactions to leaving camp are completely normal.

In order to better understand your daughter’s post-camp behavior, it is important to look at the totality of the camp experience. Camp represents independence from parental controls, new opportunities, and a heightened responsibility to self and others. Learning how to ski or sail, or to knit a scarf is important, but camp is so much more than that. The Birch Trail experience provides an opportunity to observe, learn, and practice real life skills. Camp friendships are often deeper than those at home because of the intensity of a shared living environment–bedrooms are solitary residences for most of our campers at home, but here at camp cabin life means communal living.

For our oldest campers in particular, the end of the season represents a passage from the innocence of childhood to the pressures of high school and beyond. Coupled with camp friendships forged over a period of up to seven or eight years, the last days of camp feel like a premature ending. That untimely sensation of loss is significant–for many of our campers it is their first solo venture into the process of grieving.

Take your cues from your daughter; if she wants to talk about camp, give her your undivided attention. Paraphrase her highlights so she knows that you’re really listening to her. By doing that, you’ll be giving her the time she needs to share her experiences and the realization of her ability to flourish on her own. Other campers will seem isolated or distant; if your daughter doesn’t want to tell you everything about camp, give her time alone to sift through her emotions. Validate her feelings if she tells you about them; don’t minimize her sense of separation, her sadness or her homesickness for camp. Ask her what she needs from you and respect her need for privacy.

We’ve asked campers what helps them to return home, and their responses have been interesting. Some girls suggest going out to dinner at a noisy, crowded restaurant because it reminds them of meals at camp. Others want to print their pictures right away and make a camp scrapbook, so a trip to your favorite “one hour” photo shop may be in order. E-mail is another great way for campers to maintain contact with their camp friends, and the girls will want to spend a lot of time on their computers.

Encourage them to talk by phone as well. There’s no substitute for this form of communication, even in this internet age. Finally, give them the chance to see their special camp friends throughout the school year; the friendships they have nurtured this summer will be friendships they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives. Those friendships and the self-reliance gained are the lasting gifts of a summer at Birch Trail.

“Thank you” seems inadequate after the amazing gift of this fantastic summer, but thank you nonetheless. Thanks for trusting us, and for sharing your wonderful, precious children with us. We have delighted in their energy, their love, and their laughter. We look forward to seeing all of you at a reunion this winter.
Until then…remember to color your days bright!

2 thoughts on “In These Final Hours”

  1. Thank you to all of the BT staff for taking care of my daughter and for contributing to these memories that she she will cherish for a lifetime.

  2. I am so thrilled with how my daughters have grown and flourished at Birch Trail. Thank you for providing a thriving environment. I tear up just thinking about it. I will heed your advice. Thank you. We will miss you.

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